Yoni Zierler

Thank you Alicia Keys

When I first heard that Alicia Keys had not bowed to the pressure of the BDS (boycott, divest, and sanctions) movement to cancel her Tel-Aviv performance, I wanted to write her a thank you letter. I, like many other Israelis, believe that BDS is the wrong path to peace. To me, one of the most glaring flaws in the BDS arguments is its demonization of Israel- accusing it of “apartheid” practices and racism, which in their eyes is reason for the punishment they call for.

Like every country in the world, Israel is far from perfect, but in fact, Israel has multiple Arab members of Knesset, an Ethiopian beauty queen, and offers medical services not only to all of its citizens, but even to citizens of the PA and Syria. This a far cry from the apartheid that existed in South Africa, which separated between the “white” and “black” communities, and offered the black community little opportunity for advancement.

But in the end, lack of time, and more importantly, lack of what to say, led to me scrapping my note.

There are many more arguments to be made against BDS, but I felt that listing them all, no matter how well written, would be repetitive, boring, and impersonal.

What leads me to this second attempt is something that Ms. Keys reminded me of last night, when she called Israeli musician, Idan Raichel, to the stage to perform next to her.

“Such a special night tonight,” Keys said in the middle of her hit song “Fallin’,” “and I’m so honored to be able to bring music together for us to share.”

Artists who cancel their performances in Israel out of protest are counterproductive to peace. Not only does this act of protest often affect many of the very people who work towards peace, it is against everything that art stand for. Art is universal, transcendental of any border or language.

This is not news, and even, I fear, a cliché’- but it bears repeating. The lack of a duet between the two stars last night leads me to believe that neither one was able to sing in the other’s language- but the sharing of a piano demonstrated that music is a tool for communication.

Our goal as citizens of the world should be the ability to live with each other in harmony. Denying people music, or any form of art, denies people of one more path that can be used to achieving this goal. Peace and coexistence- not punishment- are our objective. By denying people music the punishment is clear, but an important tool of conversation is tainted and lost in the process.

Thank you Alicia. I can only hope that your message from last night is not lost on the world, and that music will serve us as a bridge rather than a barrier.

About the Author
Yoni Zierler is the chief tour guide and Director of “Discover," the tourism department of StandWithUs – an international, non-profit and non-partisan Israel education organization that works to inspire and educate people of all ages about Israel, as well as challenge misinformation and fight against antisemitism. Raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Yoni immigrated to Israel for his last year of high-school, and subsequently served (with excellence) in the IDF. A lover of history, books, and music, Yoni is happily married to Yochi and the proud father of Golan Noam and Klil Eden.